Steve Albini, influential producer of ’90s rock and beyond, dies at 61

Steve Albini is a rock musician and respected audio engineer who played a unique role in the development of the alternative rock music sound in the 1980s, 1990s and beyond – recording Nirvana, PJ Harvey, the Pixies and The critically acclaimed album by hundreds of others – while becoming an outspoken critic of the music industry – died Tuesday at his home in Chicago. He is 61 years old.

Taylor Hales of Electrical Audio, the Chicago-based studio that Albini founded in 1997, said the cause was a heart attack.

With a keen eye for how to record a band and an even sharper tongue for anything he considered mediocre or compromised, Mr. Albini was one of rock’s most acerbic wits. He was also a harsh critic of the extreme exploitation of the major-label music business, describing the ways in which naive bands were lured into striking major label deals in a widely cited 1993 article, “The Problem with Music.” , which, in most cases, left them bankrupt and in debt.

Yet in the 1990s, when his work as a recording engineer (he derisively called a “producer”) was most in demand, Mr. Albini made no apology for accepting big checks from major-label bands. But these bands do so at their own risk. By then, Mr. Albini was also known for mocking the orchestras he recorded with afterward.

“I’ve never seen four cows so eager to be led around with a nose ring,” he wrote after recording “Surfer Rosa,” the seminal 1988 album by the Boston band the Pixies that became a staple of 1980s alternative. One of rock’s classics. (Even so, Mr. Albini remained a close friend of the band’s bassist, Kim Deal, and recorded her solo project, “The Breeders.”)

As a musician, Mr. Albini fronted the band Big Black in the 1980s and Shellac since 1992, both of which embraced loud, raw guitars and angry, screaming vocals. Neither had widespread commercial success, but they were both widely influential, with Mr. Albini seen as a prophet of radical rock and a provocative, do-it-yourself work ethic.

A full obituary will be released at a later date.

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